Fun! Whee!!!
*special introductory paragraph!
*Young God EP
*Body To Body, Job To Job
*Holy Money
*Real Love
*Public Castration Is A Good Idea
*Children Of God
*Kill The Child
*Feel Good Now
*Love Will Tear Us Apart EP
*The Burning World
*Saved 12"
*Anonymous Bodies In An Empty Room
*White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity
*Love Of Life
*The Great Annihilator
*I Am The Sun 7"
*Soundtracks For The Blind
*Die Tur Ist Zu
*Swans Are Dead
*My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky

Swans (no "The," apparently) are one of the most brutal and punishing non-metal bands to ever exist. Their brand of "goth/industrial" began as a guy screaming over slowly paced, buzzing guitar, low bass (wow! low bass?) and pounding drums. Then later a woman joined and they became more musical while still going out of their way to depress the shit out of you. So what's the appeal? I don't really know. They depress the shit out of you with really great music, I suppose!

Filth - Young God 1983.
Rating = 8

This one isn't so much TORTUROUS (that would come later!) as headbangingly cool. The songs are mostly mid- to slow-tempo and plodding, but Mr. Norman Westberg, later a member of Heroine Sheiks, plays all sorts of neat repetitive buzzing fizzle-dee-dee on his electric guitar. And man instinctively harbors an internal fondness for percussion that purposely tries to make one feel like he is being whipped and slammed into a wall over and over again. The vocals were kinda dumb at this point in the show -- leader Michael Gira just shouting everything like a ridiculous young man who fancies himself a modern-day Coupe De Ville -- but the band had a pretty cool sound even this early - like an interesting cross between industrial, goth and metal.

Hmm. I suppose that doesn't sound very interesting in these days of Nine Inch "Poetic Genius" Nails and Marilyn "Talented" Manson, but the way Gira and his S&M-loving bondage boys present it, it comes across as a lot less hokey than you'd think. Probably because the "riffs" are catchy.

Marquis De Sade. That's who I meant. Not "Coupe De Ville." Go back and change that for me if you would.

Reader Comments

InMyEyes82@aol.com (Zach English)
Swans don't depress me. They don't anger me, they don't excite me. They just bore me. At least on this early stuff they played actual instruments; the disco/chamber music shit that begins with Greed really makes me wanna pull my hair out. I can totally understand how someone could go apeshit over them, though, especially someone who takes solace in depressing, droney music. Filth starts and ends really strong, the first song has this bizarre little trick where the guitar player lets out this stream of feedback every ten seconds or so...after that it just becomes a haze. There's a reason why I haven't been able to recall a single song title in the few weeks or so since I sold this record. Gira even did a pretty shitty job producing U.S. Maple's Talker... here's a shameless plug: U.S. Maple's Long Hair in Three Stages is the most incredible, jaw-dropping thing I've heard...maybe ever. Buy it now. In twenty years they'll be as influential as Pere Ubu or the Fall.

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Cop - Homestead 1984.
Rating = 7

This one starts off tricking you into thinking that Swans have become a guitar-heavy metal band, but by a couple songs in, the AXE is relegated to the background and it's all rhythm and yelling from then on. Some of the rhythms are awesome though, with that cavernous reverbed drum sound I mentioned in the last review. Unfortunately, the bass isn't doing anything but serving as an extra drum.

This particular album isn't exactly "musical," which is fine for a while because you can still bang your head to a bangy drum and heavy bass note banging over and over. But by the end you're kinda aching for a melody and you just want Whatsisname to shut up. SHUT UP, WHATSISNAME!!!!

Reader Comments

n9717129@cc.wwu.edu (Dan Ward)
I loaned this album to an acquaintance to use as background music for a mock suicide scenario (training people to deal with suicidal folks, that is, not pointlessly spooking people out, although don't think I frown on that useage of Swans albums) and it scared one of the trainees to the point that she broke down and wasn't around for the rest of the day. One of the other trainees talked about how it was "..just this AWFUL music ... well, I say it was awful because it was so depressing..."

Speaking more to a direct point about why you should have this album, I really dig those neat drum patterns & bass parts & overly repetitious bits. Mmmmm. In fact, I'd go so far as to give Cop a 10, but bear in mind that I'm one of those people who adores their early-period stuff over their later goth-cabaret thing. Dammit Mike, why'dja hafta sell out... well, not SELL OUT persay, but more go to acousticy things. Anyway, I find Cop the Swan's most all-round satisfying record. By satisfying, of course, I mean "really oppressive." And isn't that what Swans experience is all about?

Colin T.
yeah, and the lyrics to cop are funny. "nobody rapes them like a cop. with a club. in jail." hahaha. oh my!

deadguy1213@yahoo.com (Daniel Miller)
I got around to checking this out a year or so back, almost a decade after first hearing Rollins talk about this album (on his spoken word album Human Butt, he fondly recalls the joyous experience of having a cop who was harassing him bust into the toolshed he was living in during his Black Flag days. The cop held a gun to his head while poor old Henry was blasting Cop in his tape player. Talk about fun.)

Cop/Young God and Greed/Holy Money is now on a double CD. I can see how this is considered depressing by some folks. But I find Swans to be happy really. Cop is really a good time party album, if you're partying by yourself with a six pack and some Bicardi while watching Faces of Death anyway. Along with the better known people M Gira has influenced, such as Godflesh and a couple other Justin Broadrick projects as well as the likes of Neurosis, Isis, and a bunch of other bands that do a good job at being influenced by Neurosis being influenced by Swans, this is good stuff for anyone with a tolerance for dark depressing atmosphere in their listening. God bless Gira, for without him they would be stuck being influenced by, well, David Coverdale. 10/10 for me, which puts it right up there with my favorite Godflesh stuff (Streetcleaner, Pure).

I can imagine Coverdale liking Swans if someone turned him on (yuck, did I just write that?) to them. Probably would be a refreshing break from him saying things like "Gee man, we're influenced by, like, Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin and stuff."

associationist@hotmail.com (Philip Prescott)
Yeah, this is probably my favorite SWANS at the moment just behind "Public Castration is a Good Idea", as that album is probably the most powerful "rock" record I have ever heard - yes, including "Fun house" which I adore. "Public Castration" was the first SWANS I heard (about a month ago), but I quickly went on to get all of the early records. SWANS destroy. I am changed forever.

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Young God EP - Homestead 1984.
Rating = 8

Thump Thump Pittup SMASH... Thump Thump Pittup SMASH...

More aggrieved male howling, pulseless drumbeats, guitar white noise and some twisty bass strings too! Torturing you, torturing me. Have I mentioned these guys' subject matter yet? If it's any indication, one of the four tracks on this EP is called "Raping A Slave." I keep asking them to do a cover of "Takin' Care Of Business," but no dice.

If this were a full album, this stuff would get as monotonous as it does on Cop, but there's only four tunes here so it starts, pounds and ends. YAAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYYAAYAYA!

Pardon me for that outburst. I suddenly felt an only slightly controllable urge to, as The Who might say, "Get My Ya-Yas Out At Leeds".

Reader Comments

Colin T.
y'know, i find this era of swans just dull. oh okay, they suffer. but i certainly don't want to listen to it on a regular basis. however, when i'm bored at the radio station, this goes right in baby! it's gotta irritate somebody, right? it's not like i'm trying to get people to listen to me.

(a year or so later)

disregard what i say above. this album is the equivalent of being put in a small box and buried deep in the earth.

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* Body To Body, Job To Job - Young God 1991. *
Rating = 10

This CD is so depressing that it is actually about to make me break down and start crying. This is not a band to turn to when you feel bad. I'm not sure exactly how they do it, but the tones they choose and the slow, methodical way they present them somehow set up a mood of unending gloom and pain. Life is never going to get any better. I am going to feel like this until the day I die. I don't want to, but I can't stop. I try everything they tell me to do and nothing works. I don't deserve to be alive. I am wasting a perfect life. I'm blowing it. I know I will lose it all soon. I can't keep it together anymore. It's too much. If you don't feel it, I can't explain it. I see no possible end to the psychologic, emotional, mental torture that my brain puts me through every second of every day. I would be better off dead and everybody who knows me, especially those closest to me, would be better off if I was dead. I hate myself so much, it astonishes me that anybody bothers to like me. I am a worthless piece of shit. I can't even tell the difference between fatigue and depression anymore. Am I depressed because I'm tired? Or tired because I'm depressed? And why am I anxious 24 hours a day? This CD is the ultimate example of Swans' ability to take a shaky mood and completely smash it into pieces. There is no light on this recording. And it is a LONG double-album recording. Goes back and forth between studio and live pieces recorded between 81 and 85, with each track more punishing and cruel than the last. This is the sound of ultimate despair. Nobody I've heard has recreated it this convincingly, not even Neurosis. This is the one. For God's sake, don't buy this album. It is perfect Swans.

Reader Comments

Colin T.
music needed in the dentist's office.

associationist@hotmail.com (Philip Prescott)
Good shit, but no fucking way this is SWANS best in my ears. If you want early SWANS at their most punishing in the studio, for god's sake get "Cop". Why Mark rated "Cop" so low is a mystery to me.

Well, you know, I baught this cd because I saw it used for eight dollars...and since it had the coveted Prindle "Ten Cherry Albino Cookie" rating, I decided, "Oh, what the hell?"


Well, I've had this fucking cd for about 2 weeks now, and I still have yet to get past song 8. It's too damn depressing! I can't do anything but feel unhappy when it's on! I mean, I don't regret buying it at all, cause, damn, those eight songs are good, but Jesus Perrywinkle...

ok. i took two valium and thought 'ha ha ha gira's up his old antics!'

no. my head hurts. this comp is like a subsistence for the same reasons mark noted. i want to pull my hair out and give it to gira now...

John Fisherman
Holy friggin lord. What an unholy, miserable, depressing record. How a group of human beings can produce something so with such an absolute, all-encompassing sense of despair is beyond me. Listening to it without completely giving up on existence is hard enough, I can only imagine what the sick fuckers felt playing it.

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Greed - PVC 1986.
Rating = 8

Huh? Piano? Calmer non-shouted vocals? Background voices? Songwriting dynamics? This could only mean one thing -- someone let a woman into the band!!!! And indeed such a thing did occur. "Jarboe," who apparently used to be a sex worker of some sort, joined the band and from the sounds of it did a great deal to bring Mr. Gira and company away from the "noise" side of things and closer to the "goth" side of things. The guitar now takes backseat not only to the drums, but also to newfound piano, chanting, synth noises and such. At times (for example, in "Fool"), their attempt to be taken seriously overshoots the mark into laughability, but there are still tons of neat machinery noises and gloomy ambience noises on here - and much more diversity than on previous Swans releases. Part of me wants to give this a 9, but then I smack that part of me down and remind it that every song on here sounds like it took about 30 seconds to write.

But an intense, brain-racking 30 seconds, mind you.

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Holy Money - PVC 1986.
Rating = 8

Even more musical growth sorta! One song has a harmonica. Jarboe woman even sings lead on one tune! Still depressing but in a slightly less deadening way than that Body To Body thing I just reviewed. They're slowly creeping towards actual musicalness, but still mostly industrial. The guitar sequences are ugly, the drums are still pounding and reverbing all over the dungeon, and all added sound effects are intended mainly to creep you out. Great stuff! "A Hanging" is, in fact, the first Swans song I ever heard and still one of my absolute favorites. My old band the Low-Maintenance Perennials even did a stupid tribute/parody/ripoff of it on our popular The Solo Album CD! Can not one thing of such to be ever forgiven and understood?

At least on this one there's beauty. Early Swans? No beauty, just pain. Swans with Jarboe? Beautiful pain. Harmonies atop ugliness. And a woman with a high womanlike voice to sing with which.

Reader Comments

Colin T.
hey, they're kinda writing songs now. neat! however, most of this is still pretty silly droning blah de blah. they'll get going soon, though, don't worry. hey mark, how about you actually write a review instead telling silly jokes! you ass. (kidding, of course. how the hell much can anybody say about Swans??).

Mark – Got to see the Shieks whoop ass here on Halloween. I like Norms playing so much on the first two records that I’ve begun to check out Swans…I got the Cop/Greed/Holy Money double CD…Think I should of started w/ Various Failures…at any rate…WOW…I still haven’t listened to either CD all the way thru…I can hardly listen to any song all the way thru…YET…I am intrigued…rather than getting the full albums I’m debating getting some songs…off of Itunes…any recommendations?

I can’t believe the guy from INXS killed himself…playing such happy music… but Swans are alive and well and they sound like THIS…

agakhan@mac.com (J.H. Malerman)
Prime Swans... "A Hanging" could wake the dead if played loud enough. "Dear God in Heaven / I feel for you / I'll hang for you / I feel for you / I'll hang for you / I feel myself in you / I'll hang myself / I love myself in you / Dear God in Heaven / I'll hang for you..." Jesus Christ! The live versions are even more terrifying. Then there's "You Need Me". A Jarboe-led tune (that doesn't scare the hell out of you)! And then the guitar-heavy remix of "A Fool", a fine dirge. Finally on the A-side, "A Screw (Holy Money)". This version WAAAY outstrips the two single versions. Whispery, cruel, slow, ominous. Now: Side B! "Another You" is strangely beautiful. And a harmonica! "Money is Flesh (#2)"... You can dance to it! At the end, there's "Coward". Too many live versions, but whatever. Creepy in any one of them.

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Real Love - Altavistic 1996.
Rating = 7

This one was originally a bootleg, I'm told, of a 1986 live show. Only has six songs but you can better bet that they're way too long, poorly recorded, repetitive and trudging! This would have been an interesting era in which to see this band play live. You'd either fall asleep, get a neckache from banging your head so hard or pick up some foxy chick for a lil' lovin' in the videogame room, know what I'm sayin', baby? A little ehh in the woo action, baby, howzabout it huh? Come on now, you know you want to suck the


"Are there any ad sales in this?"

Reader Comments

agakhan@mac.com (J.H. Malerman)
Dirges! And a live version of a B-side! Too bad there don't seem to be any live versions of "Greed" or "Time is Money (Bastard)", though.

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Public Castration Is A Good Idea - Thirsty Ear 1999
Rating = 7

Another early live album, this one contains 4 Greed songs, 3 Holy Money, and "A Screw" from the "A Screw" single. Very murky live "industrial" sound, like they're playing in a dungeon or the work floor of a decrepit child labor factory. Incredibly pounding and heavily reverbed, just noise smashes, slow rhythms and Michael Gira moaning at you about various things. If you listen closely to these songs, it's impressive to note that what at first appear to be identical monolithic blocks of pummeling noise are actually dynamically constructed in a particular way (for example, you'll hear an actual musical note way in the background at the same spot of each dub-dub-DUHDUH-Dubbadeedoo-DUBDUB SMASH SMASH SMASH repetition). However, in the long run it doesn't matter HOW closely you listen, because the differences between tracks -- aside from the catchy piano-driven "Fool" -- are so subtle in this dense POUND-SMASH-POUND-SMASH-"HERE'S YOUR MONEY!" monophonic recording that it all might as well be considered one really long song. Nothing changes but the drum pattern and the lyrics; Michael never alters his suffering/punishing vocal style, Jarboe never sings a single note, and the guitar never does anything but make the exact same detuned violent "SMASH! SMASH!" noise over and over again.

However, I do like the album -- it's a lot more satisfying then I'm making it out to be. For one thing, this may be the first rock album I've ever heard on which A SINGLE RECOGNIZABLE MUSICAL NOTE automatically makes a song seem 'melodic'! Also, you can't help but wonder how they manage to create this unholy racket. 95% of the time, it's not even CLOSE to musical! Are they just bashing on cymbals with fistfuls of chains? Is the guitarist just throwing his instrument up in the air and letting it smash on the ground in 4/4 time? Christ, one of the remarks I excitedly jotted down on paper for mention in this review is that the hook of "Stupid Child" is "Almost like 2 different notes!"

So if you're attracted to the idea of REALLY driving your parents nuts without resorting to that irritating Japanese noise crap, this might be the way to go. At 74 minutes, it's way too long and samey to hold one's interest all the way through, but the first 45 minutes or so will totally blow your mind.

With monotonous, snail-paced wreckage noise.

On a lighter note, does anybody know why, whenever I drink too much alcohol now, I get a bad headache located directly AROUND and BEHIND my right eye? Does that mean I have a weak artery there or something? It's odd - and it happens nearly every time I drink now. It's not a headache so much as a "Face-Ache" located around my right eye. Maybe it's a sinus issue? Does it sound like some kind of migraine? When it happens, no amount of water or aspirin will help. A hot shower sometimes helps a little bit, if I make the water jets stream onto that area of my face for several minutes. It's hard to sleep though, and when I wake up it's bound to hurt even more than it did before. Is my air conditioner unit partly at fault? It totally ruined last night's sleep for me, and by the time I found my rest again, I wound up sleeping til 2:30 PM. I read the liner notes of Big Black's Headache EP hoping they would offer some advice but all they did was yell at me not to touch their tools. I wasn't gonna touch their fucking tools. I just want to know how to stop getting these weird eye-related headaches. Any ideas, reader people? How about you, thepublicimage79@hotmail.com? What do you think's going on with my eye?

Reader Comments

My learned medical comments: Erm, your headache might be because you stare at a computer too much. I've had that happen to me a couple times when I've stayed on too long. And public castration is NOT a good idea.

My off-the-record medical advice: Drink until you collapse. A simple, yet oddly poetic, cure for all ills.

Swans? I don't know them at all, but they seem like a very evil bunch of deathtone shriekers. Are they that depressing?

Funny you should mention eye related headaches, as I've been coping with an afflication very similar to the one described in this review for... probably several months. The only difference is that these face/head irritations are actually bugging up the left side of my face (eye, upper canine and sinus to an extent) and do not occur after drinking but at random intervals during the day with no ominous signs, which is fucking ANNOYING. While I can only imagine what an nagging pain in the balls it must be to suffer through these brainsplits at night, at least you have some sort of control over them.

Try adjusting the mileage of your alcohol intake - it's lousy advice, but I'm no doctor and we're practically in the same boat. Even if yours is carrying too much whiskey and you need to LAY OFF.

Good luck!

agakhan@mac.com (J.H. Malerman)
Me, again. Scary disc. I've said this before, but "Coward" is good here. The howling/whispering is pretty creepy. "A Screw" is very brash and ritualistic on here; The drums are almost tribal, and Gira is just plain rabid, like some evil street-preacher. "Money is Flesh" really does take forever, but interestingly so. "A Hanging" is just awesome. Though the original has the industrial/gothic thing down, and I probably prefer said version for its musical merits, this one is stripped-down righteous FURY. "Fool" sounds like it's coming from a dungeon, and is utterly oppressive even without the sturm-und-drang drum set. "Stupid Child"'s start is actually funny. I think Michael really is harassing cops! I mean, they got thrown out of Switzerland circa 1986... "Another You" may just be my favorite. The original is perhaps one of the most crushing songs they ever wrote. The atmosphere is more than heavy: It literally grabs you. The live rendition is pure noise punishment, and the lyrics (from the point of view of an abused lover, if you've read them) are well articulated. Though it does sound a tad muddy, and it pretty much lacks any tune ("Fool" is the one exception), the "playing for the damned" production is rather effective.

Apropos of little: "I See Them All Lined Up" is truly breath-taking.

Apropos of nil: Do you think gangsta rap is atrocious or simply foul?

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Children Of God - Caroline 1987.
Rating = 7

To give you another indication of exactly how suffocatingly depressing the Swans can be, I'd like to point out that I only made it halfway through this CD before my fiancee demanded that I remove the CD and never listen to the Swans again. Not only did it make her sad, but she (rightly so) worried that it was bad for my current emotional state.

And it is. I'm basically holding on by a thread here, waiting for the new anti-depressant to kick on (which won't be for another month or so, if it works at all). But dammit, the kids are demanding Swans reviews and I must deliver, even if it kills me.

Okay, so I listened to three Motorhead CDs and have now returned to finish listening to this one. Hmm. You know, a lot of people think of this as the best Swans album, but I don't. They have switched their focus to "goth" music, which means there are pianos, acoustic guitars and gentle "sad" songs, but only a few fantastically deadening outbursts of industrial noise. That, to me, is what Swans were all about. Pain and catharsis (or lack thereof). This new sound, though more diverse in mood, can get a lot less interesting really quickly. Swans were fantastic at crushing your spirit with anger, noise and drums, whether there was much melody there or not. But if you're going to play actual "music," you have to develop interesting melodies and, in my opinion, Swans fail to do that a few too many times on this record. However, it DOES have some killer tunes that may very well give you them goosebump things if you let 'em. "New Mind," "I'll Swallow You," "Sex, God Sex," and the title track all do this for me. But stuff like "Trust Me"? "Real Love"? I dunno.

Strangely, the first half depressed the living shit out of me, but the second half is not doing so. Hmm. Isn't it bizarre that I'm rating Swans on how depressed they can make me? I'm doing that because that's the POINT of Swans. Because they so often neglect the basic human need of musical interestingness, if they fail to depress, they fail to impress. If I want spooky organ noises and tentative piano lines, I'd might as well just listen to Joy Division or The Cure, right? What's so special about a Swans that doesn't consistently whip you into submission?

Reader Comments

Colin T.
stick to the motorhead. i agree with this.

errado@ruralsp.com.br (Bernardo Pacheco)
I just heard this album for the first time now. I spent a couple of hours changing CDs until I found one that maintained my interest for more than three consecutive songs. I couldn't get it off the player. Considering that it's over 70 minutes long and it was my first listen, I'll have to disagree. Cop on the other hand, I can't concentrate on unless I'm under a death threat to do so.

I've never heard this album, but i like "gothy" music so i'll give it an 8

agakhan@mac.com (A.G. Malerman's son, J.H. Malerman)
This isn't actually A.G. Malerman. It's her son, J.H. Malerman, and I am also a Swans afficianado. A note on the version of Children of God you got: "I'll Swallow You" is the B-side of the New Mind single, that version of "Our Love Lies" is from the Love Will Tear Us Apart EP, and the second disc is actually World of Skin. I think you know this by now. To intruige you, both Kill the Child and Feel Good Now take out most of the weaker songs. "Blind Love" seems to be the apocalyptic heart of both of them. 'Tis itself one of my favorite Swans tracks, aside from the more obvious classics. Also, have you the original rerelease of Filth? If not, try to find it and review the last four tracks. This is Swans EP, namely first ever studio release by these guys. More chanted, prose-ish lyrics, creepy feel, has a saxophone. You might enjoy it.

Speaking of such, "A Hanging" is an awesome song. Scary as hell. The double entendre of auto-erotic asphyxiation and crazed martyrdom is great fun. "Greed" is also a fine song. So is "Heaven", and "Coward", and "Blackmail"... In fact, most of their stuff from that era is excellent. Oh, and by the way: You might have thought Soundtracks for the Blind went nowhere fast, but its more concise twin, the German Die Tür Ist Zu EP, is wonderful. Summary: Jarboe does "Your Property" (again!), an extended (22 minutes), carnival-like German version of "The Helpless Child" called "Ligeti's Breath/Hilflos Kind", a rendition of "I See Them All Lined Up" called "Ich Sehe Die Alle In Einer Reihe", the instrumental version of "You Know Nothing" entitled "You Know Everything", a rootsy "Mother/Father", the noisy "Surrogate Drones", and a breath-taking, albeit abridged, live performance of "The Sound", listed here in its pre-Soundtracks version as "Soundsection".


P.S. Thank god for a wife who has a favorite Big Black song!

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Kill The Child - Atavistic 1996
Rating = 5

Michael Gira and his Swams released many a live CD in their day, and this is another of them. These Swams songs are pulled from concerts performed in 85-87 and comprise five Children Of Godders, two Holy Moneys, and one otherwise unreleased bunch of swishy tones and scrapes. Although the CD is programmed as a single untitled track, there is space between nearly every song so they'd might as well have done the right thing and given us song titles and lengths. In fact, I'll do so right now with a bit of help from Wikipedia:

1. Like A Drug (roughly 9:00)
2. Beautiful Child (approximately 6:00)
3. Blind Love (right around 13:00)
4. Coward (let's say 6:00)
5. Blood And Honey (7:00 or so)
6. Sex God Sex (rounded to the nearest minute, maybe 11:00)
7. A Bunch Of Swishy Tones And Scrapes (in the area of 4:00)
8. A Screw (exactly 7:00 on the nose, give or take several seconds)

When you turn to a live Swans album, you're not looking for diversity, melody or emotion. You're looking for brutal, monophonic, colorless, pounding, scraping, grating PUNISHMENT. This particular release unfortunately only delivers on a few occasions. "Like A Drug," "Beautiful Child" and "A Screw" are perfect; Gira moans, groans and manically intones as his band whips up a sick monotonous din so Dark Ages dungeony that you'll probably get welts all over your eardrums. Unfortunately the rest of the disc vacillates between ineffective goth and tracks that are meant to be punishing but are simply dull.

Children Of God was never one of my favorite Swans records to begin with, so I'm not particularly surprised by this development. Still it's kinda depressing (and not in a good Swans-depressing way either) to hear literally dozens of audience members chit-chatting all the way through Jarboe's "Blood And Honey" because the song is so gloomy, off-key and bland. Likewise, I know "Blind Love" has its supporters but it's basically just Gira howling over a drumbeat -- for THIRTEEN MINUTES! Do you realize how many times they could've covered "Judy Is A Punk" in that time? EIGHT TIMES! And then they'd still have an extra minute for "Durango 95"! Come on Swans get on the stick with your Ramones covers.

This is hilarious. We have a maid in here cleaning the apartment right now (a MALE maid, so I'm not having sex with it) and I'm in here blasting this gigantic slop of noise with Gira shouting "SUCK! SUCK! SUCK! SUCK! SUCK! SUCK! SUCK!" on top. I can't wait til we get to the "OPEN YOUR MOUTH! HERE'S YOUR MONEY!" part.

Still, even he would have to admit that this beats the tar out of that godfuckingawful Paul McCartney album I was playing earlier. Whoever decided that Flowers In The Dirt was a 'comeback album' needs to get the shit out of their ears. It's TERRIBLE! But then what do you expect from an album that Elvis Costello had anything at all to do with. Yeah Elvis! "Monkey To Man" is a GREAT song! You've still got it!!

(Elvis Costello sucks)

Reader Comments


To be fair what you say about Swans live albums being deviod of melody and emotion and being all about punishing and pounding is only true up till around about this point in time, once the fluffy bunnies come on the scene they mix it up alot more in the live albums (like Omniscience, that's a great live album!)

I'm not huge on Children of God either, but Like A Drug is a great tune! It's a shame they don't do Trust Me on this one as well. It's funny how if you look for Swans tracks on youtube you get near-diddly-squat other than 'Public Castration' in it's entirity. I got my mom to sit through the whole of Coward, that one's a cracker!

Glad to see your back on team Swans Mark, don't let us down by falling of the Gira wagon for too long again, we've missed you here in fluffy bunny land. Fluffy bunnies decapitating each other and sucking out the life source!


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Feel Good Now - Product Inc. 1988
Rating = 5

Swans swans hummingbird
Hurrah we are all free now
Six of one half a dozen the other
What a noisy cat this guy is --> HILARIOUS CAT VIDEO

Here's a sorrowful anecdote that will bring tears to your eyes. Yesterday I went to Staples to buy padded envelopes and wound up behind a mother taking her tiny daughter down the escalator for the first time. It took some coaxing, but finally the frightened little girl stepped onto the moving stairway while gripping her mother's hand. As they approached the bottom, the mother said, "Now when we get to the end, step off. Watch Mommy," and stepped off. The little girl hesitated, and by the time she finally took a tiny step off, the escalator had EATEN HER SHOELACE!!! She fell to the floor (which wasn't very far) and all was brutal hellfire chaos until Mark "The Hero" Prindle reached down and yanked the shoelace free of its evil possessor. The little girl then stood up and rightfully cried me a river. Will she ever ride the escalator again? I sure wouldn't!

And didn't! (I took a hot air balloon the rest of the way)

Secondly, why is my Dr. Pepper can painted up to look like a football? I don't want to drink a football. And I can't stop throwing it across the room, thereby emptying its contents all over the entire workforce! Goddamn you, The Coca-Cola Bottler's Association! Goddamn you to Heck and back!

Feel Good Now is yet another live album from the Children Of God tour, featuring 0 songs from Filth, Cop, Greed and Holy Money, as well as 9 from Children Of God. "New Mind" and "Trust Me" are really quite hypnotic, with Michael Gira's delivery growing in intensity from moan/intoning to antagonistic screaming as the songs progress. I'm glad I was able to say something positive about the record. Let's move on.

I'm assuming Jarboe is singing along to the cowboy band across the street because she doesn't even come close to hitting the notes Swans are playing.

The disc starts off fine, but grows inedibly boring indelibly quickly. Songs with no melodies (or even interesting noises) drag on for literal months as your children grow mustaches. Young industrial/goth bands take note of my heed: a cool drumbeat is pretty to look at and lovely to hold, but if you don't add anything to it but a guy moaning, consider it sold! (on ebay)

I don't much care for Children Of God to begin with, so a poorly recorded version highlighted by audience hoots and off-key Jarboe warbling was never going to make my "Best Indie Rock Albums of 1988" list anyway. But couldn't they have at least played one song from a different album? Surely lack of rehearsal wasn't an issue; none of their early songs have more than two chords!

So with no further ado, here's my "Best Indie Rock Albums of 1988" list:

10. Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth
9. Bug by Dinosaur Jr.
8. Live: The Delicate Sound of Thunder by Pink Floyd
7. Gimme Indie Rock! by Shurojit, Rajshekhar & Anindyo
6. White Album '88 by The Beatles
5. Expose Yourself to Kids 7" by Natalie Merchant
4. Read My Lips by Bush
3. Small World by Huey Lewis and the News
2. Go Fuck Yourself by Menudo

And the number one Indie Rock Album of 1988....

1. Feel Good Now by Swans! No hang on GODDA

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Love Will Tear Us Apart EP - Product Inc. 1988
Rating = 7

There exist several different versions of this EP, but the one I'm reviewing features two covers of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us A New Asshole" (one sung by Gira, the other by Jarboe) along with alternate recordings of Children Of God tracks "Trust Me" and "New Mind." The Gira cover is straightforward, but surprisingly substandard; he lets his voice stray from the melody too much, and the song just isn't as good without that doomy goth keyboard that permeates the original. Jarboe's harrowing acoustic/keyboard take is much more interesting, though I'd still rather just listen to the Joy Division version.

On the other hand, the Children Of God songs are much improved in these 'Unplugged'-style versions. "New Mind" benefits from full-bodied acoustic guitar replacing the scrappy distortion of the original, and both tracks are gooded by Gira actually singing instead of just bellowing everything.

A must-own. If you don't have it, you'd might as well squirt lighter fluid all over your record collection and set your house on fire. Are you kidding? Swans' Love Will Tear Us Apart EP? Why, one time a man in Pittsburgh realized he'd left his copy at Taco Bell, and reacted by moving to Russia, changing his name to Joseph Stalin, and murdering millions of people!

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The Burning World - Uni 1989.
Rating = 8

I'll tell you what's so special about Swans -- if they put their nose to grindstone and bother writing memorable melodies, they can put out an EXCELLENT goth album! You can actually sing along with every song on here. And you'll want to! Sad, yes, but at times somehow hopeful in its beauty -- the song "Saved," for example. A POSITIVE SWANS SENTIMENT??? Hell, they even do a Steve Winwood cover! "Bring Me A Higher Love"!

Okay, it's not really "Bring Me A Higher Love," but they DO do a Steve Winwood cover - "Can't Find My Way Home" -- which fits in with the mood of the entire album. One of my main problems with the last record was that the strings and pianos and acoustic guitars weren't used in an intelligent manner. They seemed to be thrown in haphazardly in an attempt to show off Swans' new rainbow ofsounds. The Burning World, on the other hand, sounds like a completely different band. There is no pounding, no anger -- just a well-produced (by Bill Laswell!) collection of somber, lovely musical pieces. Maybe not what Swans fans were expecting or desiring, but really, really good nonetheless. Doubtlessly the prettiest album of their career, in a Nick Cave sort of way (Gira even sings like Nick Cave now!). SAD but not depressing.

This album is also available as a limited edition CD called Forever Burned, with the bonus track "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and some songs from Love Of Life and White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity. I guess they don't like the album for some reason. Maybe because it's actually pleasant to listen to.

Reader Comments

Colin T.
and hey, you're right on this one, too. it's pretty yet sad. i STILL don't want to listen to it that much though. i like sad songs when they're thrown in with a bunch of non-sad ones. makes 'em stick out more. like "sweet and lowdown" on "in on the kill taker." that's sad and it stands out, dogggggg.

irontyrant@earthlink.net (Michael Grefski)
Say what you will about Steve Winwood (what the hell, punch him right in the face for all I care) but Swans understood the etheral dynamics of "Can't Find My Way Home," the same way that they pulled an organic longing out of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart." Coincidence? I think not. Genuis? Just maybe.

I'd have to take exception. I'm not sure I agree with a lot of Swans fans that Children of God is their best, although I think I liked it more than you. I'm a huge Swans fan, and I really can't stand The Burning World. even Michael Gira doesn't really like it. Bill Laswell was brought in to produce this one, in a possible attempt to get a little mainstream acceptance. Obviously the mainstream is no place for Swans. Regardless, Laswell put his signature on it, most things that Laswell touches turn to BO-RING. There's a reason why there are no Material albums in your review list (Painkiller was cool but we can blame John Zorn/Mick Harris for that).

When Gira compiled the best of the "middle period" (this, White Light, Burning World, outtakes) into Various Failures, he put in only 2 or 3 of these songs across 2 CDs. I'd recommend getting that set and don't bother with the album. Unless you're a collector and must have everything-- in which case this is the easiest album to find, due to the fact that it had larger distribution and pretty nonexistent sales.

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Saved 12" - Product Inc. 1989
Rating = 7

This record includes:

ONE! (1!) The Burning World track
ONE! (1!) The Burning World demo
ONE! (1!) The Burning World outtake

You know the track and can imagine the demo, so I'll focus on the outtake. It's called "No Cruel Angel" and features a dark acoustic verse with Western twang guitar alternating with a morose two-chord chorus. Look, here's a photo of my dick:


I know it seems a little small, but it's a satellite photo from space.

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Anonymous Bodies In An Empty Room - Non 1990
Rating = 6

Recorded on The Burning World tour, this live CD features three songs from that album, two that would soon grace White Light From The Mouth of Infinity, two from the Gira/Jarboe side project World Of Skin, and one otherwise unreleased track. The sound is bootleg-murky, with keyboards nearly lost underneath the guitar/bass glop, and the drums reverberating like they're being played in an airplane hangar. I personally like the sorrowful singer-songwriting of this Swans era, but Anonymous is hampered by a weak set list. Aside from Jarboe's minimalist gospel stimulant "Blood On Your Hands" and Gira's dramatic pop depressants "Let It Come Down" and "She's A Universal Emptiness," the chosen songs range from intermittently moving laxatives to actual cyanide pills that pop out of the stereo and bore you to death.

The one unreleased track, "Untitled Excerpt," features a pummelly rolling drumbeat, two trebly guitar chords, an interesting echo/repeat effect at the end of each line, and Jarboe moan-singing something that sounds like "TRA-LAY! TRA-LIE-O!" Those who've heard the song have no evolutionary advantage over those who haven't.

But enough of this USELESS SHIT about a live Swans album nobody will ever buy. Let's talk about something important: the way I sent drunken emails to like 400 Facebook people on Halloween night. These sprightly messages included:

- an apology to Courtney Howson for 'being such a geek loser when I knew (her).' I haven't spoken to Courtney Howson since roughly the 7th grade.

- a note to Greg Haehnlein comparing a negative 1st grade memory of him to a positive 12th grade memory of him. As far as I can remember, Greg and I exchanged possibly two sentences the 12 years we attended the same schools.

- a query to Nicole Mellilo regarding all the 'jock' high school photos she'd been posting. My question: "You post these photos of you with all these 'jocks,' but in my memories, you hung out with the 'stoners.' Am I remembering completely wrong? I could've sworn that there was a period when you hung out with the 'stoners.'" I had a crush on Nicole in the 3rd grade, and don't recall speaking with her since.

- a message to Bryan Wooding stating that I'd found a photo of he and Patrick Ku sitting on a cannon during our 7th Grade Florida field trip, and had unsuccessfully attempted to take a photo of the photo to post on Facebook. I cannot recall any specific interactions I might have had with Bryan, though I apparently knew him well enough to take a photo of him sitting on a cannon.

- this charming response to a pro-McCain comment on Christa Raposo's page: "Republicans have destroyed this country over the past eight years." One time in 7th grade Reading Class, Christa and I discussed The B-52's. As such, I apparently felt it appropriate to engage her in spirited political debate 23 years later. (Her equally engaging reply: "dont fuck with me pussy. you were always a loser and your still a loser bitch")

- an email to Gina Bennett alerting her to the fact that I had a crush on her in the 5th grade. This was the crowning achievement of the evening, for I have never spoken to Gina Bennett in my life! Shockingly she didn't just phone the FBI, and we exchanged a couple of emails before she realized it's probably not wise to correspond with somebody who remembers your school bus number from two and a half decades earlier.

Oh sweet alcohol, the silly things you make me do.

Actually I guess it could be the horse tranquilizers too.

Reader Comments

Hello Mark, long time no e-mail. Anywho...

The untitled excerpt is actually the coda of an unreleased track entitled "A Young Girl Needs More", and is in fact sung by Gira; It is one of two songs from the pre-Burning World tour ('88) that were never (fully, officially) released, the other being an ominous torrent of bass and keyboards entitled "The Unknown". The full song makes infinitely more sense than the excerpt, although I'm unsure if you'd really like the rest of it....

If you want a better overview (with better sound) of this era in Swans' live history, go to swans.pair.com and purchase the CD-R numbered 042; The sound quality is pretty high, and the performances are considered some of the band's best from this period. Plus, it has both unreleased songs in full and two rather interesting encores...

But enough from me. For now.

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White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity - Young God 1991.
Rating = 8

Bunnies Bunnies! Hoppy Bunnies! Cotton Tail and Screwing All The Time! The production on this one seems a bit brighter than on the last one. Not as relaxing. Some rat-a-tat-ing drums every once in a while to get you off your lazy couch potato ass. Hits my left ear as reminiscent of the sad, lovely nature of The Burning World and hits my lower left ear as similar to the angry, accusing mood of Children Of God. "Failure," for example -- an amazing song for sure, but if you can make it to the end of the song without starting to believe that your entire life has been a failure, then mister you're a better man than Eye. Like the last one, the sound is very full with guitars, keyboards, bass, pianos, a few more keyboards - lots of RINGING, arpeggiated guitar lines to stress the importance of their subject matter in a way that chords just won't do.

The record is really good. Not as consistent in my mind as the last one, but tons of excellent Swanny tunes on here. Even my woman loves "Better Than You"! Great goddamned song! Other subject matter? "You Know Nothing"! "Will We Survive?" "Why Are We Alive?" But don't stress out. There's brightness too. You just have to search for it. These Swans are no longer out to make you feel bad. They just want you to feel alive, in all its pain, confusion wonder.

That was pretty sissyish, wasn't it? What I MEANT to write was "Swans Love Sweet Carolina Pussy!!!"

Reader Comments

I think Eye is a pretty good man. At least, that's what I've heard.

This fuckin' prick is my favourite Swans-making-music album. I have to separate THIS Swans from Body To Body Swans - my favourite from the era that made me want to crawl back inside Mum, until they went away. Different band, different reason to play them.

This is one of those records that I can't quite picture being made; it's too huge. "Better Than You" and "Power And Sacrifice" just fill and bludgeon the room, in a brutal, yet beautiful way. My God! Those drums!

The last parts of "Will We Survive" and "Love Will Save You" could go on forever, except, if they did, I could only choose one to listen to. Point is, there's nothing more they could have done there. Complete.

If I had an alarm clock that woke me up with "Song Of The Sun" everyday, I'd get up earlier.

It kind of dies out for me after that song, though. Nothing wrong with the rest of the album, they just sound a bit tired after all that had come before.

"Failure" is probably a wonderful song, but I FUCKING HATE it, and never got to like it, because of a flatmate I had at the time this came out. We both bought it, but for two whole months, everyday (no shit), I'd get home from work at midday, to find him sitting in the kitchen, in his filthy dressing-gown, CRYING, with that fucking song playing over and over again. Thank God he didn't ruin the rest of this great album for me.

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Love Of Life - Young God 1992.
Rating = 8

....Hey! Norman Westberg is gone! What the hell did you do with Norman Westberg????? WHY???? WHY GODDAMN YOU FUCKING SON OF A WHORE?????

Ah who cares. He hasn't had a chance to buzz us to oblivion for several years anyway. This album is REALLY bright and shiny, relatively fast-paced (by sluggish Swans standards, anyway) and full of droning, mesmerizing repetitive collections of instruments all playing notes around the same chords. MAN, did I phrase that intelligently!

What I'm getting at is that a lot of these songs will soothe you, in spite of their sadness. And the ones that don't will kinda make you shake your head around and boogie ("Amnesia," for example! Are you POSITIVE that this is Swans? It's so damned bouncy and dancey!!! Fanastistiice!).

There's also a bunch of little soundbites and shit on here that do nothing but waste space (almost a full 6 minutes of it!).

Most of these songs are excellent (not "She Crys For Spider" though - sounds like a Chrissie Hynde ballad or something!). Minimally written, perhaps, but gorgeously built up, produced and laid out like a deck of pituitary glands on my wang.

Okay. I'm going to think clearly and try to explain exactly what is so appealing about this period of Swans output. The chords they choose are minor chords. Sad and spooky. They lay down a drone with piano, keys, bass and guitars -- and repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. And your life becomes a desparate search for religious guidance - or at least some reason why we're alive. Swans aren't about sex and pain anymore. They're about love and non-love, life and non-life, God and non-God. They strike an unforgettable, unignorable chord in the human soul.

Because they're SMART AS SHIT. Overdramatic? Maybe, maybe not. Humorless? Oh hell yes. Definitely. But the sound they create - the louder you play it, the more you just want to reach your hands to sky and cry out for something to believe in. Some reason to go on.

I give this record an extremely high 8, is what I do indeed. Maybe even a 9. Yes! A 9! But with only 8 dots!

Reader Comments

agakhan@mac.com (J.H.M.)
Great album. Kind of a halfway between WLFTMOI and TGA. The best song is almost certainly either "Her" or "God Loves America", but the title track is a close second.

Now, an aside: You can find live versions of quite a few of these songs on the CD Omniscience. And the live versions are even better: Better, lower vocals on "Amnesia", a really scary instrumental on "Her", an epic take on "Love of Life", and a half a-capella version of "God Loves America". And the best part: Although this can go for upwards of $60, if you're on eBay or Amazon at the right time, you can fetch it for a third of that. *Winks.*

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Omniscience - Young God 1992
Rating = 8

Here's a live Swans album worth your buying dollar. Featuring 6 Love Of Lifes, 1 Great Annihilator 1 Nick Drake Cover and 4 previously unreleased little snippy-snoos, Omniscience sounds like a studio album, with very clear stereo separation between the two guitars, bass, drums, keyboards and vocals. The set list is also wonderful-wonderful, capturing all the teutonic drama and mesmerizing bombast that early '90s Goth Swans had to offer.

You should already own Love Of Life, so I'll focus on the previously unreleased material:

- "Will Serve": Joshua Tree-esque spiritual warmth expressed through two optimistic guitar chords, three happy keyboard notes, and a series of blissful echoed guitar arpeggios. And a tambourine! You hear me? A tambourgoddamnedine!

- "Black Eyed Dog": Nick Drake cover. Bloozey-drone feel starts fine, but then Jarboe starts grossing everyone out with this Janis Joplin shit and we all throw up in a glass and hurl it at the stage. You hear me? The stagoddamnedge!

- "Untitled": A guy talking on the phone over a high lullabye piano line. Not worth a good goddamn. You hear me? A godgoddamneddamn! - "Rutting": Short, great stomp-rock instrumental with coool slidey bass line. You hear me? line. - "Omnipotent": Pounding, heavy, creepy, low-end one-note bass instrumental! " " "? pbblsd

So that's three stellar instrumentals, a passable Nick Drake cover, and a guy talking on the phone. Worth your buying dollar? I'd say! Which reminds me of a little joke:

What's the difference between what this album is worth, and a rickety old man having sex with you? One is your "buying dollar," and the OTHER is your "d

Reader Comments

Makes a nice little surprise doesn't it to hear a swans live album which is good quality AND has a good set list? It's a shame though that there are still alot of great songs from this era that aren't on any of their live releases. One of the tracks seems to take a loop of Eyes of Nature, but I want the whole song - certainly more than I want to listen to BLACGH - DAHWEEAHWEEAHWG!! Jesus!

Yep. I had a (dubbed) cassette of this in the mid nineties. Man, they must have been something to see! I'm now listening to an official, mint cassette I got from eBay today. I couldn't find a CD copy under $100,000. It's a little more muffled than I like, but I think that's my tape deck, more than anything. I haven't bought a cassette since I was 12!

Which should say something about this album. If you're a fan of early '90s Swans, this is a good way to kick yourself for not seeing them live at that time. I have an excuse that Jawbone (or whatever her name is) gave me: "The other side of the world". Frustrating in that sense, but better than nothing, like all good live documents, I guess. Big band, all instruments represented. I don't understand why they didn't release more live material from this time. I could do with a lot more, considering how much of the slow, brutal, punishing, bleak, sparse, repetitive live stuff they released, before and after this.

8 out of 10. 9, if I had a better tape deck.

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The Great Annihilator - Young God 1995.
Rating = 8

HEY!!! NORMAN GREENBAUM IS BACK!!!! WHAT DID YOU DO TO WOO BACK NORMAN FELL???? Balderdash! Not sure what got into Michael Gira in 1994, but this is like a high-speed hardcore album compared to the rest of his catalogue! The song tempos for some reason alter between midtempo and UPtempo, rather than deadly slow as in the past of my past. It's not Steve Miller, but the songs do kinda move along at steady tempos previously unheard of by this group of nihilists, sadists and Reaganists. This at times threatens to make them sound like any typical showoffy alt guitar band (Couldn't you just imagine Sonic Youth doing "Celebrity Lifestyle" and "She Lives!"? Couldn't you just hear Eric's Trip doing the title track? Couldn't you just hear Weezer being buried in a deep, deep hole in the middle of the desert?), but for the most part they manage to avoid genericism and give us lots more awesome defiant stuff. Great echoey sound, beautiful background vocals (did i mention that? the last few albums have all had kind of chanting backup vocals - you can't even really tell they're voices - they just blend in with the rest of the somber soundscape), well-written melodies ("Killing For Company"!!! "Blood Promise," too!!!), and just more solid Swanitude. What more is there to say about Swans?

By the way, my fiancee is currently lying in bed in the other room, unable to get out of bed because this music is depressing her so much. HA HAHAHA!! AA A HHAHAHAHHH`1~!~~ DhgAHHAAHEKR!!!! f EEEEE!! DAHAHAHAHAH~!!~~! FDJRIEIELVEL!!! EW""A"W"A"A"!!! VDJTEJJDFKJVKJEKJV~!!~!~! IWSSISISISI!!!! AA{{EJHSDJ!!! VNVVFEQ{{F{F{{{{{{!!!! SHAHAHASHHSH!!!! F F DJFJDJJFDJJ!!!! CFEIFDIRSENFF!!!! MICHELLE PFEIFFER'S LAST NAME SOUNDS LIKE A TOOT FACTORY!!!!!

Reader Comments

kotovski@aei.ca (Grigori Y)
This album is so fucking good... I think, it's not about depression as much as it is about exhaustion, about totally running out of steam, emotionally and mentally. It does take a lot of time to get into, though.

The instrumentals are kinda nice but pointless, but the songs are mostly excellent. I usually don't give a crap about lyrics (because they are usually bad anyway), but Gira's (and Jarboe's) lyrics are really well-written, I find myself quoting them from time to time. And "Celebrity Lifestyle" is some nice pop music from those nihilists.

By the way, I think that the Great Annihilator is some dead star in space, far far away from us, that actually emits anti-matter (positrons). And, by the other way, the only thing that really bugs me about this album is the stupid design, all those symbols and stuff. Otherwise, I love that CD.

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I Am The Sun 7" - Uebershall 1997
Rating = 7

I'm forever learning important things, so here are some life lessons for you all:

1. Life is not a project that can be completed through the acquisition of a job, wife and children. Eventually your job will be shipped overseas, your wife will issue divorce papers, and your children will rise and kill you.
2. If you keep sending depressing text messages to women, they'll mail you their vagina.
3. You can't depend on others for your happiness. Okay, bartenders. But nobody else.
4. Cherish every moment, because one day you'll be old. Only for the one day though, then you'll fall off a bridge.
5. This single features live versions of two The Great Annihilator tracks. Recorded live at The Flesh Club in 1996, "I Am The Sun" builds over six minutes from a Led Zeppelin "Friends" sound(kind)alike to an awesomely intense drum-blasting moan'n'droner. Recorded in a December '94 VPRO radio session, the two-minute "My Buried Child" is marred by a Tori Amos-style fake Southern drawl.
6. Apparently women aren't attracted to guys who spill popcorn butter down the front of their shirt and try to get it out by splashing water all over themselves so it looks like they wet their pants.
7. Although it may seem perfectly logical while you're high on dope, you're not likely to catch a fish by pouring bacon fat into the water, waiting for a bacon-loving fish to show up, and stabbing it with a hunting knife.
8. When performing karaoke, it is considered impolite to finish every song by screaming "FUCK YOU!" at the audience.

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Soundtracks For The Blind - Altavistic 1996.
Rating = 7

2015 UPDATE: This is a grower, not a shower. I originally gave it a 5 though. Here's why:

I don't know the story behind this two and a half hour studio effort from Swans, and I don't much give a patootie. But I'll say this: if every Swans album sounded like this, I wouldn't be a Swans fan. It all sounds like it was recorded by one person. A keyboard simmering by itself for 10 minutes. Michael "crooning" with a warbly voice that shouldn't be crooning. Boring samples of people talking. Chanting - by itself. Empty atmospherics instead of actual songs. Even the actual songs take three or four minutes to finally get going. What is this - EnoSwans?

My fiancee claims that this stuff still passes as depressing but I think it's just boring. Nothing happens. Oh sure, there are a few neat bits of sound. One song has a flute or something. And both "The Final Sacrifice" and "Helpless Child" are nice and creepy. But most of it? Just sounds pretentious and go-nowherey. Bah!

Reader Comments

I totally agree with you. It has some songs I really like, but most of it I'm tempted to skip to the next track on most of them. A few of the speech bits are sort of funny, but I don't want to sit through five minutes of little bleeps to hear a slightly funny thing I think is actually supposed to be scary. the last song, where Michael is singing about "Jesus, you're my only god, step inside me lord" I actually liked that song, but it should have ended the cd. It would be better if they kept all the songs with singing and made it into one short disc instead of boring us with 2 and a half hours. a sad end for one of my all time favorite bands. I hope Michael's making better music with Angels of Light, and Jarboe's doing better solo.

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Die Tur Ist Zu - Rough Trade 1996
Rating = 5

This ever-racing speedcar of excitement features alternate versions (some in GERMANY language!) of three Soundtracks For The Blind songs, one each from The Great Annihilator, White Light From The Mouth of Infinity & Gira's solo Dreamland album, and one brand new unreleased turbo racer screaming holy motors for the checkered flag in your ear.

Make no misnomer: "Ligeti's Breath/Hilflos Kind" (and its English rendition, "Helpless Child") is a brilliant 21-minute epic, and the closest to matching Pink Floyd that most bands will ever come. Likewise, Jarboe's slow creeper "YRP" and Gira's '60s-heroin-vibed "Soundsection" are fine examples of the late-era Swans' threatening yet musical atmosphere. Unfortunately, the other four tracks flounder around in a shallow pool of tedious experimentation and yucky redneckisms.

"Hay look at me, I'm speaking German through a choppy vocal effect over a swishly wind noise," announces Michael Gira. "I assure you that the novelty of this will not wear off, even if I continue for another four and a half minutes -- which, indeed, I will."

"I love that cool morbid acoustic folk motif," adds Jarboe. "But am I crazy or is it literally begging me to shriek over it in a stupid redneck accent?"

"Boom boom boom! Boom boom boom boom!" laughs a drawling Southern child. "Let's loop that five hundred times like an asshole," decide Gira/Jarboe.

"Hay, I stink!" remarks the song "Surrogate Drones," suddenly springing to life in animated form.

But I guess that's why "Die Tur Ist Zu" translates to "Die, tourist at the zoo!"

I'd write more but today is a sad day for America. I gave up Tae Kwon Do today.

Which makes it an extremely HAPPY day for me personally, so up your nose, ASSmerica!

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Swans Are Dead - Altavistic 1998.
Rating = 7

Ahhhh. This is Swans I've grown to love and tolerate. I suppose they realized they couldn't just go on stage live and do little keyboard bleeps and bloops, so this endless double-CD of two concert shows (one from '95 and one from '97) is Swans as Swans will. Slow, repetitive, sad. Industrialish. Moody. Dark. Rolling and grinding. Yelling and crooning. Awfully long though, and not nearly as textured and spiritually smoldering as the awesome studio releases. And too much ugly girl yelling. While we're on the subject, it's very odd to hear the Wild Swans pound away at a single chord for 17 minutes and then hear a crowd hoot, holler and clap -- but THAT'S AMERICA!!!!

How the hell come the furniture guy's not here yet? We've been waiting all frickin' day for the sumwhore, but nuttin yet. Another 32 minutes and the guy gets a KICK in the watusi! Where's my couch? Where's my bed? Where's my chair? Where's my patio set? Where's my reversible television? Where's my enormous bust of Denny Atkin, former editor-in-chief of Computer Games magazine? Where's my G-spot?

In my prostate? Hang on....


Reader Comments

If you are an M. Gira fan as I am, then why don't you have anything on his latest project "Angel of Light"? Judging from the bands you like, I believe you would enjoy them. I highly recommend the latest release "Everything is Good Here/Please Come Home".

Note: younggodrecords.com has re-released SWANS "Fever Burned" with an additional rare track "Love will tear us apart" (Joy Division cover). You have to sign up for it but it's worth it (you also get M. Giras signature).

Yet another note: young god records has signed some incredibly diverse groups worth checking out. I haven't gotten through the list but my personal favorite so far is Flux Information Sciences.

There is too much good music for one lifetime. I am bidding on a second but Satan refuses to return my phone calls.

Keep up the good work.

agakhan@mac.com (J.H. Malerman)
This is a good live album. "I See Them All Lined Up" and "The Final Sacrifice" are sublime here, as are "Blood Promise" and "The Helpless Child". The real standout may be, however, "The Sound". For some unknown reason, I just love that song. Same with "Blood and Honey" on Children of God. I dunno. The latter gets points for being sinister. Maybe it's just because it is genuinely soulful.

In response to the stuff about the live albums in Swans Are Dead review:

I'd recommend getting "Feel Good Now" - it has really awesome performances of a lot of the Children of God material, including an astoundingly intense 18-minute version of "Blind Love". Be warned, however - the vinyl and CD versions are very different from each other (the vinyl - apparently a long double - is more of an audio document of "Swans on tour in 1987/88", while the CD is much more of a "standard" and recognizable live album).

Just started listening to these guys. Great stuff. First thoughts are that they sound like Joy Division if Joy Division didn't totally suck ass.

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My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky - Young God 2010
Rating = 9

Like the ugly swanling that grew into a beautiful duck, Michael Gira broke up Swans in 1997 and began a less depressing project called Angels of Light. His relationship with Jarboe ended around the same time. But stop living in the past!

The reconstituted Swans find Gira, Norman Westberg and several other fellows creating a ringing, clanging, branging, clattering mess of lurching locked-beat calamitous blasts of sorrow, rage and sound. The drums sound shambolic, but the band is tight as a none scunt as they combine their angry distorted guitars, vibes, piano and loud swooping bass (along with occasional keys, mandolin, church bells, trumpet and acoustic guitar) into a looping delight of lengthy and repetitive crash-a-bash noise punches.

Stylistically, the band is not retreading past glory. This is neither punishing industrial music nor sorrowful goth, but a raucous and noisy approach to rock music, reminiscent at times of early Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. The constant bendy swoops of the bass, intense live sound of the drums, and disconcerting waves of bells, chimes, vibes and other undefinable curios give MFWGMUARTTS a sound entirely unique to itself in Swans discography. The songs may seem repetitive at first (because at their core, they are -- there are no verse/chorus constructions here), but there is a tremendous amount of sonic information contained within the arrangements if you take care to listen. Plus, the songs all get more and more intense and aggressive as they go.

There are very few moments of calm here. "Little Mouth" and "Reeling The Liars In" combine somber acoustic strumming, western twang guitar and humming men's choir to lovely effect, but every other instance of muted brooding eventually erupts into a blast of instrumental rage (or, in the case of the sinister mandolin-driven "You Fucking People Make Me Sick," a piano-smashing trumpet-diving catastrophe). And, strange as it may seem, Jarboe isn't missed at all. I'm not even sure how her voice would fit into songs like these!

I don't know if Six Flags Over Georgia still has the Dahlonega Mine Train, but that's what this music reminds me of. As tightly wound as it is, it still sounds rough, rollicking, dark, frightening, unpredictable and out of control. I absolutely love it and hope you do too. If for some reason you don't, please note that the very first beat count on the album is 5/7/4/9/3/6/2/7/5/REPEAT.

Seriously, what kind of asshole would write a beat count like that? Therefore, you give it a 9 and SHUT THE HELL UP.

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Nobody fines you for illegally downloading music....LIKE A COP!!! Therefore, please purchase some Swans CDs at a legal forum such as that pointed to by this link, in life today. (Click on the album covers to access LOW LOW used CD prices)

Back to Mark Prindle and Estelle Getty - LIVE! On Broadway! 2Together!